Congratulations on taking the first step in wanting to feed your dog a species-appropriate diet.
Every raw feeder starts with learning the basics. By following this basic core recipe, you’ll learn the best way to meal prep for your dog.
Learning it make raw meals isn’t about reading; it’s by doing. You’ll finetune your skills and get more efficient as you progress.
And in a matter of time, you’ll go from beginner to raw dog chef extraordinaire.
And just like humans have various diets, Keto, Whole Foods, Lo-Carb, Gluten-Free, Mediterranean, Mayo Clinic, and more. And even different cuisines, French, American, Thai, Chinese, Pan-Asian …. know that there is more than one way to feed your dog.
Feed The Dog In Front Of You
As you start your raw feeding journey, the primary guiding principle is to feed the dog in front of you. They don’t have a voice and rely upon you to make the best decisions for them.
You will have to develop a keen sense of observation and monitor their health markers.
There is no other way around this.
Monitor Their Health Markers
You will need to keep a diary and note how the food you feed affects their:
Developed By Focusing on Species Appropriate Diets While Recognizing AAFCO’s or NRC’s Daily Requirements
Dogs are obligate carnivores. As such, ingredients sourced should be what nature intended them to eat.
That said, we do know there are some known nutrient requirements. And this core recipe recognizes.
So yes, it may intimidate you at first but trust me, it’s not that hard. It’s a recipe for success, and once you understand the WHY behind the core recipe, you’ll feel at ease that you’re feeding your dog correctly.
The advice given is the closest I can get you to a nutritionally sound recipe without requiring you to use a spreadsheet or hire me to create a personalized formula.
- Feeding whole food ingredients first.
- Food first approach but formulated to meet AAFCO’s nutritional guidelines
- Emphasis on keeping dogs free from synthetic supplements.
- Allowances are made to include supplements only if you are unable to source and find whole food ingredients.
The Core Recipe for a Species Appropriate Raw Meal
45% Muscle Meat. Choose one protein for the meal. Rotate every day or every week
- Rotate your proteins. I change out a different protein every night of the week. You can rotate every two, three, four, five, six but no more than seven days (mix it up weekly)
- I feed red meat more frequently. I actually don’t feed chicken as the main protein since I use chicken feet and chicken hearts often.
- Feed eggs daily. I recommend pasture-raised eggs. They are higher in vitamin A, E, and omega-3s, as well as lower in cholesterol and saturated fat. They also help you fill your choline requirement daily. My 20-pound dogs eat half an egg, each meal or one egg a day. Scrambling and cooking the egg, allows me to split one egg into smaller portions. Cooking the egg doesn’t impact the bioavailability significantly.
15% Organ Muscle:
Rotate your variety monthly but always gizzard as frequently as you can your meals. Taurine comes from the heart and gizzards and actually higher in gizzards.
Organ muscle will have the highest saturation of nutrients which is why it’s beneficial to feed it.
10-12% Bone: Rotate your variety monthly
- Bones are an impotant source of not only calcium and phosphurus but also other trace minerals and vitamins like manganese.
- You can increase bone to 12% if their poops are solid enough. It should be like a cigar that can roll down a sloped sidewalk. You should be able to pick it up with ease. If it’s too hard, it will turn white the next day and you need to ease up on the bone.
- In a pinch, when you don’t have bone, you can use eggshell powder or seaweed calcium.
8-10% Fish: Pick two and rotate monthly
- For example, I love to feed salmon and mackerel. Those are the two fish I feed most of the time, and occasionally, I’ll have access to capelin, smelt, sardines, or anchovies.
- I normally cook fish that has thiaminase low and slow in a small amount of water and then include the water in their meal.
- Some fish don’t have to be cooked and fed raw.
5% Seafood (but read note below on shellfish):
- 2.5% Blue mussels which are needed for manganese.
- You can get both of these ingredients from your local Asian market.
- You MUST cook them. Most blue mussels already come cooked.
- Cinnamon can be a replacement for manganese if your dog doesn’t have a palatability issue with cinnamon.
- 2.5% Oysters are fed for zinc. They are typically frozen and need to be cooked prior to feeding to eliminate the problem with thiaminase.
- If you are unable to find frozen oysters you can buy them canned. Some dogs react to canned foods. Typically they start itching between 30 minutes to 3 hours after they eat it so you will very quickly be able to tell.
- Zinc in it’s natural whole food form is up to 6.5 times more bioavailable than synthetic sources.
- If you cannot source oysters, you can use the amino acid chelated zinc supplement such as L-OptiZinc® in a 15 mg dose. Capsules are easy as you can break them apart. Small dogs can turn to Zinc drops. There is an Ionic zinc supplement sold on Amazon.
KEEP IN MIND: NOT ALL DOGS CAN EAT SHELLFISH
I suspect that the issue has to do with sourcing.
Interestingly enough I found texts referencing ancient dietary advice that say that seafood has to have both skin and scales.
Scientists have taken years to discover and now agree that fish with scales AND fins are equipped with a digestive system that prevents the absorption of poisons and toxins into their flesh from the waters they call home.
Oysters and mussels absorb toxins from the water in which they dwell. And while manganese is highest in mussels and zinc in oysters, not all dogs can eat shellfish.
3-5% Liver: Choose two and rotate monthly
- Liver is extremely high in Vitamin A.
- The copper yield in liver varies depending on the source.
- For example, I rotate my liver between beef, lamb and pork liver. I feed it for about 7 to 10 days and then switch to a different liver.
- Air-dried liver treats can be a substitute to cooked liver.
High copper liver includes: beef, calf (veal), lamb, goat, goose / feed around 3%
Mid-range copper liver includes: duck, deer / feed around 4%
Low copper liver includes: pork, chicken, turkey / feed around 5%
5-6% Other secreting organs: Choose two and rotate monthly
- If you can source spleen – it’s great to feed as it has the highest level of iron
- Air-dried kidney or spleen can be a good substitute
- I love to add vegetables to every meal. This is where you get the phytonutrients and flavonoids. Start small and go up to 20% of the weight of the non-vegetable portion of the bowl if that is what is best for your dog.
How Much To Feed Your Dog
- I could formulate a portion to your dog’s individual caloric needs, but you can also safely estimate it to be between 2% (adult semi-active dog) to 4% (active adult dog) of their daily weight.
- You will have to monitor their body condition score regularly to know if you are feeding the correct amount.
Putting It All Together In The Bowl
To save money, it’s been easier for me to purchase ingredients as I’m out and about doing my own grocery for my family and taking advantage of sales.
As such, I store all of the ingredients in individual servings and defrost the next day’s meals in the fridge.
I prepare their meals twice a day. Supplements are minimally used unless I am unable to source the whole food source.
Supplements To Add
- Calcium: When I don’t have bones. You can also use a base mix such as Raw Vibrance from Doctor Harveys. Or eggshell or seaweed calcium powder.
- Kelp: A trace amount of kelp goes a long way. A pinch is all you need. If you overfeed this – depending on the brand, you can easily be enter overfeeding a dangerous amount of Vitamin A and/or D.
- Vitamin E: If you are able to source bone marrow one to two times a week you won’t have to feed vitamin E supplements.
- Digestive Enzymes
- Omega – 3s. I like to get keep my Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio in the 3:1 ratio or even 2:1 and that would mean I would have to feed almost double the amount of fish or just add an Omega 3 supplement.
- Milk Thistle: Liver support and detox.
- Quercetin: Nature’s Benedryl. Feed to dogs with yeast, allergies, IBD, and inflammation. Feed only 30 days at a time
Know Function, Deficiencies, and Excesses of Key Nutrients
The deficiencies for the commonly missed nutrient in DIY meals are as follows:
Function: Constituent of thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Thyroid hormones have an active role In thermoregulation, Intermediary metabolism, reproduction, growth and development, circulation and muscle function.
Deficiency: Goiter, fetal resorption, rough coat, enlarged thyroid glands, alopecia, apathy, lethargy
Excess: Similar to those caused by deficiency. Decreased appetite, listlessness, rough coat, decreased immunity, decreased weight gain, goiter, fever
Function: Component and activator of enzymes (glycosyl transferases) lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, bone development (organic matrix) reproduction, cell membrane integrity (mitochondria)
Deficiency: Impaired reproduction, fatty liver, crooked legs, decreased growth
Excess: Relatively nontoxic
Function: Calcium and phosphorus homeostasis, bone mineralization, bone resorption, insulin synthesis, immune function
Deficiency: Rickets, enlarged costochondral junctions, osteomalacia, osteoporosis
Excess: Hypercalcemia, calcinosis, anorexia, lameness
Function: Biologic antioxidant, membrane integrity through free radical scavenging.
Deficiency: Sterility (males) steatitis, dermatosis, immunodeficiency, anorexia, myopathy
Excess: Minimally toxic. Fat-soluble vitamin antagonism, increased clotting time, (reversed with vitamin K).
Excess: Relatively nontoxic. Reported cases were because of consumption of pennies or zinc nuts
Function: Constituent or activator of 200 known enzymes (nucleic acid metabolism, protein synthesis carbohydrate metabolism, skin and wound healing, immune response, fetal development, growth rate
Deficiency: Anorexia, decreased growth, alopecia, parakeratosis, impaired reproduction, vomiting, hair depigmentation, conjunctivitis
Being familiar with the ailments lets you know if you’re overfeeding or underfeeding your dog.
Commercial Prepped Raw Meals
The fresh food movement is gaining in popularity and you can buy raw grinds.
They fall into two categories:
1. Complete and Balanced to AAFCO’s Standards
These companies formulate their meals to AAFCO’s standards. You won’t need to add anything to the bowl when you feed these brands. A shortlist of what I recommend is as follows:
2. Ratio based grinds
These companies follow a ratio recipe. Typically I would add fish and fiber to blends. A shortlist of brands I would recommend are:
Why I Don’t Include Carbohydrates (normally)
Dogs do not need carbohydrates to survive. It’s not species-appropriate.
But… if a dog’s medical or digestive system requires less protein or fat for whatever reason and needs carbohydrates then this can be included in a therapeutic diet.
Another option is to add sweet potato or squash, but the high level of fiber might cause problems for their stomach.
Every dog is different and meals are personalized for their wellbeing and health.
Nothing will clean teeth like “raw meaty bones”.
The Asian market has duck necks in the frozen section or pork neck bones in the meat section that you can feed up to twice a week. Take the bone away if you need to so that you don’t overfeed your dog. You can see what the pork bones look like in this video.
You can also buy recreational chews like duck feet, veal tails, or beef tendons from these online stores:
I only recommend companies that stand by their product and stand by their customers.
I don’t like the “chew bars” you see in pet stores.
- You don’t know where the chew was sourced
- You don’t know if it’s gone bad in transit
- You don’t know who to call if there is a problem with that chew
A word about dehydrated chews:
Currently, caution is being given to dog parents that feed heat-treated (dehydrated and air-dried) chews. The reason is that it lacks moisture and can cause fecal impaction or cause dogs to throw up.
There are certain heat-treated chews I advise not to feed based on my own dog’s chewing style.
- Tracheas – (danger of thyrotoxicosis)
- Aortas – (danger of thyrotoxicosis)
- Pig feet (too fatty – can go rancid in transit)
- Ribs (bones are too sharp)
- Wings (bones are too sharp)
- Pig skins, pig ears (too fatty)
- Goat feet – (bones are too sharp)
I personally feed dehydrated veal tails and duck feet twice a week. I also don’t mind the dried pizzles and tendons and lamb or rabbit ears.
I also feed raw meaty bones which is my preference.
But I also rest them and feed meals without bones and use calcium supplements.
If your dog is a gulper, I would not feed heat-treated chews.
Contact the companies above to learn more about how to feed chews safely. My opinion is based on my super gulper and being extremely cautious. I don’t have the luxury of having careful methodical chewers so the risks outweigh the benefits but you have to make your own decision since every dog is different.
Alternatively, you can feed yak sticks if bone and chews worry you.
Putting It All Together
Your dog’s bowl has 8 components:
- Organ meat
- Bone or calcium
- Other secreting organ
Adult dogs can have a little leeway so if you’re unable to source duck gizzards for organ meat one week, don’t stress yourself out. As long as you can source and add it back in then your dog will be just fine.
Sometimes you need a mentor to help you through your first meal. I’m happy to work with you to make this transition easier.